My Alma Mater – The American School, Inc.

American School

It was 1952, I had just “graduated” from kindergarten at St. Paul’s College on Herran which was just a few blocks away from where my family had an apartment at the corner of Mabini and Tennessee Ave. I managed to survive that year, successfully eluding the nuns with their rulers that seemed to mysteriously be hidden in the folds of their habits. They came out rather quickly and before one could cry “mommeeee” , they gave you a sharp rap on the knuckles. So, here I am in the front row with the tie waving at the camera. The smiling nuns apparently happy to finally see me go. I’m kidding, of course.

My kindergarten graduation at St. Paul's - 1950.

My kindergarten graduation at St. Paul’s – 1950.

My mom, bless her heart, decided I should go to the American School. I think her plan all along was that if I learned via the American curriculum, I would be better prepared to study in the U.S. at some point. So I started first grade at the American School on Donada street, my teacher was the very grim and no-nonsense Mrs. Goodier. Her sense of humor perhaps paralleled that of the infamous Joseph Goebbels.

My first grade class-1952.

My first grade class-1952. I’m in the back row, 2nd from left.

Of course being ADHD and surrounded by a new environment and new friends, I was constantly talkative and disruptive (or so said Mrs. Goodier). Heck, I was just a friendly little fella. It mattered not because I went on to the second grade where I was promptly rated as a smart kid and immediately skipped to third grade. Ha, take that Mrs. Goodier !
But I digress. It occurred to me that all this time I’ve been writing articles about special places in Manila and yet, I’ve never written about my alma mater. So here goes…

Early 1900s.
After the first wave of soldiers and their wives settled in Manila after the Spanish-American war, more businessmen arrived with their families. All of these newly migrated Americans obviously needed to educate their children but the choice of American education was quite slim. Home schooling worked for some and even some enterprising mothers set up private “American schools”.

(courtesy of N. Torrentegui)

(courtesy of N. Torrontegui)

In 1901, most American families still lived within close proximity of Intramuros. An American school featuring American teachers and curriculum operated within the old walled city on Calle Victoria.

(courtesy N. Torrontegui)

Believed to be an American School on Calle Victoria (courtesy N. Torrontegui)

American School 417 Nozaleda

American School 417 Nozaleda

As more Americans moved to the Ermita/Malate areas and under the pressure from the growing demand of newly-arrived American families, a new location at the former residence of the Perez-Samanillo family on Calle Nozaleda and Herran (Gral. Luna and Pedro Gil) was leased as an annex in 1908 with 236 students. It was later donated to the LaSalle brothers in 1911, becoming the first La Salle school in the Philippines. I received this interesting bit of trivia from Luis Martin Arriola:

“The family mansion in Paco, Nozaleda (now Gral. Luna), was big and spacious (13.000 sqms.), lined and defended by a thick iron gate, imported from Europe. It had forty to fifty servants. The house was occupied by the Aguinaldo forces as they were not allowed to proceed to Intramuros. When the brothers of the LaSalle sold the family home to the Madrigal family, they had a misunderstanding regarding the gates, its most prized feature, the brothers did not want them included in the sale. Now the gates are in the Fort Santiago in Manila.”

American School - 417 Nozaleda (courtesy I. Reyes)

Former Samanillo residence – American School – 417 Nozaleda (courtesy I. Reyes)

There were several privately-funded “American” schools in this early period, mostly paid for by the American families with subsidies from American businessmen. This rankled many because they were already taxed for public education and yet had to pay for private American schooling if they wanted to ensure an easy transition for their children when it would be time to further their education at stateside colleges and universities.

The American School Incorporates.
The smaller, private schools were expensive to operate and maintain and perhaps out of desperation, a Board of Trustees was created and the American School was incorporated in 1920. The biggest problem was finding a location for the growing demand of students increasing each year.

Rev. Gouverneur F. Mosher

Rev. Gouverneur F. Mosher

On June 21, 1920, the American School Inc. opened its doors. A small two-story building at 606 Taft Avenue opposite the Philippine General Hospital was found to be suitable. It was called the House of the Holy Child and belonged to the Episcopalian Church. Rev.Bishop Mosher made the building available, rent-free for the first two academic years but private donors had to pledge P10,000 to get the school underway. At the end of this period, Bishop Mosher requested the return of the building for its church missions.



House of the Holy Child (courtesy I. Reyes)

House of the Holy Child (

American School-606 Taft Avenue (courtesy D. Wiley)

American School-606 Taft Avenue (courtesy D. Wiley)

As a viable and sustainable enterprise, the school was on shaky ground. As the start of the new school year in 1922 drew closer, the school board frantically searched for a new building. As luck would have it, a new location was found at 115 Padre Faura (where the old Acme Market used to be) and Mrs. Elizabeth Marshall was installed as principal. The school had found its home for the next 6 years. Also fortunate was the admittance of over a 100 new students to add to the school’s revenue. Although facilities at the Padre Faura school were minimal, the high school students were allowed to use the library and labs at the Bureau of Science for research.

Bureau of Science -library

Bureau of Science -library

“When the school moved to an old Spanish house on the corner of Padre Faura and Mabini, the High School was added – without the benefit of lab sciences. There were only a handful of us in high school. The first class to graduate consisted of two girls. All of us loved the new location because of a tiny Spanish bakery on the corner, cutting into our grouds, which sold those crusty Pan de Sal, warm and fresh – pure ambrosia.” [source: Gertrude Elser Jordan, Class of 1924]

Bureau of Science-Biolab interior

Bureau of Science-Biolab interior

By 1928, the building on Padre Faura became so crowded that roomier quarters at the corner of Aldecoa and Mabini (behind the Admiral Apartments) were rented. The new edifice, a rambling wooden structure, proved much more satisfactory than the old location. (It’s interesting to note that this building was also used by one of the private “American schools” in 1919.) The school remained here for the following eight years. It was just a few steps away from the breakwater of Manila Bay; the children found it a pleasant playground at recess. Mrs. Beatrice Grove, whose husband helped raise the American flag over Fort Abad Santos, became principal in 1925 and under her guidance, the school thrived until its move to the permanent Donada street location.

The philosophy of segregation was treated quite openly in prewar Manila. An editorial found in the American Chamber of Commerce, February 1922 stated, “For the past five or six months, the American Chamber of Commerce has been making a futile effort to bring about the establishment in Manila of a purely American school, a school to which American parents could send their children in the knowledge that they were being instructed in an American way by American teachers and in accordance with American standards. The American community believes it is entitled to a school for its children and is not disposed to compromise in the matter. American children must have instruction different from that adapted to Filipino children. It might be permissible to admit European children to such a school inasmuch as their future environment will not differ greatly from that of the American children but in aims, methods and ideals the school should be American and nothing else.”    [source The American Chamber of Commerce Journal, Feb.1922]

Fortunately that mindset started to change after the war. Albeit slowly, the school’s policy evolved to admit mestizos, Filipinos and even an Indian/Filipino/Spanish kid like me. The American School was later renamed to International School of Manila and today reflects a completely diversified student population.

Central School
During that early period, another new public school called Central School opened in 1914 on Taft Avenue corner Padre Faura. As with all public schools, it was also administered by the Bureau of Education but still reserved for American students.

Bordner playground-1930s (courtesy M. Whitaker Squires)

Bordner playground-1930s (courtesy M. Whitaker Squires)

However by 1920, out of a total enrollment of 600, slightly more than half of the students were mestizo – typically American fathers and Filipino mothers. Some parents felt that the original intention of an all-American school had been diluted.

Classroom interior at Bordner -1930s (courtesy M. Whitaker Squires)

Classroom interior at Bordner -1930s (courtesy M. Whitaker Squires)

Although many considered Central to be less snobbish and less anti-Filipino than the American School, in fact, it was de facto segregated; it admitted only a few talented and high-status Filipinos until 1932 when Gov. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr. decreed that competence in English rather than race or citizenship would determine eligibility to attend. The school was later named after H.A. Bordner, Manila school superintendent.

Central High School-1921

Central High School-1921

Brent Basketball team-logoA fierce rivalry grew between the American School, Central and even Brent School in Baguio, especially during basketball competitions.

Clif Forster (A.S. alum 1941) mentioned the “big” game at Baguio the weekend before Manila was bombed on Dec.8th. After an exhilarating win against Brent, the A.S. kids were bussed back to Manila. Had they stayed, they might have been caught in the bombing of Baguio by the Japanese.

Donada Street Campus
Overcrowded conditions once again forced the Board of Trustees to consider another location. In early 1936, a large tract of land was found on Calle Donada in Pasay. These photos are from Dr. Richard Scheerer’s personal collection. The property belonged to his grandfather, Otto Scheerer, professor and former Governor of Batanes. The Scheerer compound was actually split into two with the Taft Avenue extension into Pasay cutting through the property. “Our original address was Sandejas. The fence on the other side of Taft in that picture belonged to the other half of the compound.” [Dr. Scheerer]

Otto Scheerer compound alongside Taft Ave. (courtesy R. Scheerer)

Otto Scheerer compound alongside Taft Ave. (courtesy R. Scheerer)

The photo below show Otto with his two sons Adolfo and Donato and son-in-law Lorenzo Onrubia in his back yard. “Attached is a photo of my grandfather Otto Scheerer (far right) and some uncles taken in the early 1930’s in the garden of the Taft house.” [Dr. Scheerer]

Otto Scheerer (far right) compound garden (courtesy R.Scheerer)

Otto Scheerer (far right) compound garden (courtesy R.Scheerer)

The photo below shows the Scheerer compound in the background. The swamp would later be filled in and become the American School campus.

Taft Avenue on the other side of the fence. (courtesy R.Scheerer)

American School campus – early 1930s. (courtesy R.Scheerer)

Plans were drawn up to buy a permanent home for the school, and with the help of patrons and donations from the community, this goal was achieved. Construction of a two level concrete building that was earthquake, storm and fire proof started in the early months of 1936.

J.P. Heilbronn

J.P. Heilbronn

Quite active in the American community, businessman J.P. Heilbronn made a substantial donation of ₱5,000 for a fence to surround the property. After the Christmas holidays, the students were welcomed to their new school building. One of the first classes to graduate from the Donada school was the class of 1937. John Daye was a member of that class and sent me this photo of him and his fellow graduates. They are wearing the dress styles of the day, tropical white suits and dresses.

(courtesy John Daye)

(courtesy John Daye)

The primary, elementary and high school students that crammed into one building soon proved to be a significant burden when once again, the Heilbronns made another generous donation of ₱50,000 for the construction of another building. Christened Heilbronn Hall, the new building was finally completed in the latter part of 1939.

American School 1939

American School 1939

Heilbronn Hall

Heilbronn Hall

It included a gymnasium with a balcony, a stage, classrooms, and shower rooms for girls and boys.

Heilbronn Gymnasium and stage - 1948

Heilbronn Gymnasium and stage – 1948

It was also that year that the American School joined MAASS (Manila Athletic Association for Secondary Schools), competing with other Manila public schools in volleyball, basketball, tennis, softball, bowling, badminton, swimming and polo. Not having a proper swimming pool and track and field, sports activities were held at the Rizal Memorial Field.

Rizal Memorial Stadium-1937

Rizal Memorial Field and Stadium-1937

American School Swim Team at Rizal - 1952 (courtesy J.Baker)

American School Swim Team at Rizal – 1952 (courtesy J.Baker)

1961 MAASS Basketball Ceremonies

1961 MAASS Basketball Ceremonies (Jan Hamilton class of ’61)

The trim, well-kept grounds surrounding the school made the wall-enclosed compound an odd little oasis with a strikingly American atmosphere.

American School-Donada-front entrance 1958 (courtesy G. Prittwitz)

American School-Donada-front entrance 1958 (courtesy G. Prittwitz)

“The white 20ft. H-shaped wooden goals at each end of a green 100-yard playing field signified it was an American football field visible to the busy traffic on Taft Avenue at the corner of Menlo Street, just 10 yards south of the Manila boundary. The sign on the dull grey concrete two story red-roofed building at the far end of the field, “The American School, Inc.” confirmed this. A second two-story grey concrete building with red painted galvanized iron roof situated perpendicularly, complete the campus buildings. Our home was adjacent to the football field and a playground separated the second building from our 6-foot high adobe walls. Two large 40 ft. mango trees with little red and yellow mangoes shaded a half basketball court in our back yard and separated our house from the American School. [Source: “Pinosi” by Eduardo Maria de la Cruz Gutierrez]

American School campus-Main Bldg (courtesy B. Christie)

American School campus-Main Bldg (courtesy B. Christie)

As the school year for 1941-1942 opened, all the signs of a typical American school were visible on Donada Street. Army buses and cars dropped students off at the school, creating a good-size traffic jam. Some of the older lads volunteered for the School Traffic Patrol shown in this photo in 1952.

Each elementary teacher taught all subjects in their class. Phys Ed. Music, Art and Spanish, notably Señorita Martinez, were handled by special teachers.

6th Grade class -1939 (courtesy E. Krohn)

6th Grade class -1939 (courtesy E. Krohn)

The classes took on a wide variety of projects and productions over the course of the year, to which the entire school was invited (and expected to come). Some of them were presented at the Elks and Army and Navy Clubs or at the Masonic Temple where Doreen Staight played a fairy princess in 1935.

The Toy Shop (Courtesy Doreen Staight Wiley)

The Toy Shop (Courtesy Doreen Staight Wiley)

Scouts were the largest activity group in the school, with Brownies and Cubs in the elementary grades, and Scouts for older boys and girls. Nearly every elementary boy belonged, and many after school activities were connected with these troops. Here I am in the Boy Scouts in 1957 (1st row, far left).

A.S. Boy Scouts 1957 (courtesy L. Gopal)

A.S. Boy Scouts 1957

Japan Attacks
In early spring 1941, as the threat of Japanese invasion suddenly grew more serious, the student population dwindled as the military and state officials started returning their dependents back to the States but on the other hand reassuring worried civilians that “the Japanese would never dare attack the Philippines”. Well, the inevitable happened and Japan did indeed invade the Philippines; air raid shelters were built at several hotels like the Manila Hotel, sandbags protected the entrance of the Bayview Hotel as bombers flew over Manila destroying Nichols Field, Santo Domingo Church, the ports and on to Baguio as well.

Bayview Hotel 1941 (courtesy C. Forster)

Bayview Hotel 1941 (courtesy C. Forster)

1941 - Manila being bombed view from the Luneta Hotel (courtesy C. Forster)

1941 – Manila being bombed view from the Luneta Hotel (courtesy C. Forster)

Monday December 8th, news of the attack at Pearl Harbor and Japanese air raids forced the school to close and wouldn’t reopen for almost 5 years. Kids were picked up by their drivers, fathers came home from work and mothers fretted about what was coming next. Within a few weeks, the Americans were required to register as “enemy aliens” and sent to the internment camp at University of Santo Tomas.

The Japanese military took over the American School compound. It was used as a camp and prison where criminals were punished and tortured within the walls of the campus. Neighboring residents claimed that several men were hanged; others told tales of hearing men’s wails as they were being tortured.

The war closed both Central and American Schools. As American families were herded into the internment camp at Santo Tomas that first week of January, the childrens’ education was carried on with surprising vigor under Louise Croft, who had arrived in 1941 to replace Glen Miller, Principal for the years 1938 to 1941 at the American School.

Work on organizing the children’s education started almost immediately after internment and by January 12th, about 112 children had registered for school. Many of the American School teachers were interned thus ensuring a rather seamless transition. The students also took advantage of the many businessmen, mathematicians, professors, scientists and the like that specialized in certain subjects. The quality of education continued at a remarkably high level although the books, paper and pencils were noticeably meager. “Because time hung heavily on our hands, going to school was a great help. Monotony made time pass slowly unless we kept busy. In addition to completing the required high school classes to graduate, we also took bridge and chess lessons, which led to bridge and chess tournaments, which also helped to pass the time.” [source: Alice Baldwin Kamm, Class of ‘43]


Santo Tomas Internment Camp -Children's playground near Annex -1942

Santo Tomas Internment Camp -Children’s playground near Annex -1942

Mother and son within the internment camp-1943

Mother and son at the internment camp-1943

It would be a little over three years of internment. The families struggled to maintain a “normal” life but the years of a starvation diet took its toll. Although first on the priority for being fed, the lack of healthy meals made the children weak and listless. It was more than difficult to keep their interests in school keen.

Margaret Hoffman Class of '43

Margaret Hoffman Class of ’43

There were happy moments though as with Margaret Hoffman who graduated in 1943. She remembered the girls’ parents borrowed white dresses from women among the internees and adorned them with cadena del amor and the boys dressed accordingly. “I don’t know how they did it”, she said, “but we even had cake and ice cream !” [ source: Margaret Hoffman Tileson, Class of ‘43]

Below, the diploma Margaret received. Each diploma was a hand-drawn original.



The Battle of Manila was bloody and devastating. My own parents were caught in the Malate area conflagration. Pregnant by 8 months, my mother ran the streets with my dad, making their way north of the Pasig, trying to avoid the house-to-house fighting between the Japanese and American forces. How they made it through still amazes me but I was born in the Sampaloc area in April, 1945.

Manila streets and neighborhood stand in rubble.

Manila streets and neighborhood stand in rubble.

Postwar Years
Throughout the fire, shelling, and counter-shelling, the American School buildings stood as a symbol of American culture, and, when the dust of battle had cleared away, they remained unscathed in the midst of a battered and torn Manila. After the area had been cleared of enemy troops, a food center was set up in Heilbronn Hall while the Main Building served as a hospital for the sick and wounded. When the need for a hospital had disappeared, the Main Building was converted into a warehouse and finally, the Philippine Relief and Rehabilitation Association (PRRA) took charge of both structures.

In February 1946, the remaining school board trustees came together to determine the future of the American School. There were significant problems to overcome: getting the old property back from the current occupants, PRRA; raising sufficient funds to restore any building and grounds damage, refurnish and re-equip the school, and obtain a principal and teaching staff. Somehow the funds were solicited, the plan came together and Mrs. Lois Croft was re-hired as she had been repatriated back to the U.S. after her liberation from Santo Tomas. Tentative enrollment was 564 students.

On September 9, 1946, the American School once again threw open its doors and stood ready to offer its first post-war student body the best in education. Although at first, grades one through twelve were situated in one building, Heilbronn Hall was soon renovated and roomier classrooms were given to the lower grades.

A.S. grounds-1950

A.S. grounds-1950

In the early 1950s, more overcrowding caused by returning expats, diplomats and businessmen, as well as alumni that had by now married and were sending their children to the A.S. , forced a few lower grades to be temporarily housed at the SeaFront compound off Dewey Blvd.

American School - SeaFront Campus 1949 (courtesy J.Baker)

American School – SeaFront Campus 1949 (courtesy J.Baker)

The school expanded even further with the addition of South Hall in 1953 to accommodate elementary classes.

Newly constructed South Hall (courtesy B. Christie)

Newly constructed South Hall (courtesy B. Christie)

In 1955, the Raymond Spruance Hall (actually a gymnasium and stage for assemblies and such) was completed along with the “new” canteen. Below our class prepares for assembly inside the new gym. I’m the short guy, second from the right of Mrs. Grant.

Mrs.Grant and kids at Spruance Hall-1957

American School grounds. "New" canteen bldg. on the right. c.1955 (courtesy G. Prittwitz)

American School grounds. “New” canteen bldg. on the right. c.1955 (courtesy G. Prittwitz)

We were all agog when Pat Boone came to one of our assemblies complete with white buck shoes and the all American look. Even the Everly Brothers gave our school an autographed photo when they played at the Araneta Coliseum in 1961.


By 1958, I started 8th grade. The boys then adopted the latest American dress style with low-waist pants; shirt tails had to be tucked in but we sported rolled up short sleeves and of course your collar had to be pulled up, ala James Dean. The girls all wore dresses with crinoline petticoats and flats. Typically dressed in this photo are from left: Barbara Fales (in the background), Gammy Garritz, Edgar Priestman, John Hendryx, Lee del Pan, Allen Staley, and Paul Hoshall.

Snack time during recess with Kathy Neal (courtesy C.Dib Furer)

Snack time during recess with Kathy Neal (courtesy C.Dib Furer)

The dating scene in school. Verney Vines and Niki Perpletchikoff-1955 (courtesy T. Bigelow)

The dating scene in school. Verney Vines and Niki Perpletchikoff-1955 (courtesy T. Bigelow)

School started at 7:30am , we had recess at 10:30 and let out at 12:30pm. I felt sorry for the military dependents who lived on Sangley Point (Cavite). They had their own elementary school but the high school kids had to get up at the crack of dawn and catch the launch that would drop them off behind the Army Navy Club then take a bus to the school. They were a tough bunch.

Sangley Launch - 1957 (courtesy Jim Whittaker)

Sangley Launch – 1957 (courtesy Jim Whittaker)

Jeans were not allowed during school period except for once a year, there was this peculiar thing called “Sadie Hawkins Day”. It was a race and a dance named after the gal in the Lil’ Abner comics. The boys were allowed t-shirts, jeans or shorts, the girls wore jeans as well and the style was to wear their dad’s white shirts that often hung loosely on them. We were all so excited and wound up anticipating the big “race” around recess time. The boys lined up on one side of the field – all properly greased with Purico, the local version of Crisco. The girls lined up on the other end of the field. Then a signal was given and the race was on. Whoever was tagged by a girl was then obliged to go to the Sadie Hawkins dance with her. I always wondered why we boys ran so hard to avoid the girls ?

Bel-Air Campus in Makati
Even after the two new buildings were added, the Donada street campus filled up, allowing no further expansion. In 1956, the Board discovered the school might be eligible for grants under the U.S. State Department. Applications were made to set up a Filipino scholarship program and purchase new property for a campus in Bel-Air, Makati. Construction began immediately and on June 20, 1961, the elementary school opened with an enrollment of 647, kindergarten to Grade 6.

This photo-op is the ground breaking ceremony taken at the Salamanka Gate in Bel-Air. From left is John Hickerson, Newland Baldwin, Mrs. Carolyn Butler and Lud Amudj.

(courtesy A. Butler)

(courtesy A. Butler)

I graduated in 1962, the last class to graduate from the Donada school. We had a senior skip day given as a perk for us exalted seniors. I think we went to Matabunkay that year. The highlights of the year were our Christmas formals and of course, the annual Junior-Senior Prom.




1958 A.S.Formal Dance (courtesy C. Jones)

1958 A.S.Formal Dance (courtesy C. Jones)

AS 1962Formal

And just like that, my carefree days were over. My mom and I settled in Seattle. It was the start of the 1963 school year. I went on to college, got married, had a son by the time I was 19. My generation was caught between waves of conservatism and liberalism. The war in Vietnam raged on. Students marched, sang and protested against the war and the government’s enforcement of the draft. It was a very confusing time but I’ll always remember those glorious and wonderful years of growing up in Manila and my time at the American School.

Even to this day, we still hold alumni reunions which are well-attended. Old friends come together. We smile, we hug, maybe a tear or two are shed, and we talk as if the years had not gone by. I miss those days, I truly do.

The photo below was taken in February 2012. We were allowed to tour the old Donada school which is now Arellano University School of Law. It was in great shape and looked pretty close to what we remembered although we never had air conditioned classrooms ! Well, you just can’t go back, can you ?

Manila 2012 reunion-Heilbronn Hall (courtesy S. Farquhar)

Manila 2012 reunion-Heilbronn Hall (courtesy P. Farquhar)

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55 Responses to My Alma Mater – The American School, Inc.

  1. barbara simone (tomassi) says:


    This is a great article. I still consider Manila my home having spent 10 years there, 5 at AS and five at IS (1966-1976). As the landmarks from our past disappear, it is fortuitous someone had the good sense to take photographs and keep written records. Thanks for taking me down memory land.

  2. Thea Gibson says:

    Lou – What an absolutely marvelous article. The pictures and you article brought back so many wonderful memories. I am in the picture of the 8th grade at Seafront
    and I amazed myself at how many of my classmates names I remembered. I guess those wonderful memories are still filed in my “rolodex”. Thanks and please keep you the wonderful work.

  3. nadia rindler dennis says:

    Another winning article. I went to AS for 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades. Then back for 9-12. I should have graduated with class of ’61 as that is who I started with. Went to St. Scholastica inbetween, and year in Australia caused me to loose a year. If you look at last Christmas formal photo, you will see Boots Taylor (deseased) with her date George Gallent(Manila), and Pilar Urra (Kurtis) lives in Madrid and her date Honey Muniosguren(Manila). Both in photo seated and then dancing. Not sure why I was not in picture as I did hang out with them. I probably did not have a date. I also see Walter Murawsky dancing with Anita Awad and Bobbie Fales, but did not recognize partner.

  4. Luis Chato Mañeru says:

    as usual, another piece well done! Stop these as I am running out of tears .. but they ARE tears of sweet memories! Sigh! Congrats, primo!

  5. Gisela Kistner says:

    Thanks for a great trip back. Really do miss those days at the old “AS”. Can’t believe it has been over 52 years since I last set foot on the Donada campus.

  6. Steve Fellerman says:

    Wow..the definitive concise history of our school and great photos.

  7. cess abad gonzález says:

    Proud of my alma mater…what a rich and unique bond we share!

  8. Guada Sanchez Mclauchlan says:

    A girlfriend of mine tagged me to this article knowing that it was my alma mater. In her post she stated that it was where I tasted FREEDOM. And I replied that it was “freedom but not as in free to do what I wanted to do but as in FREE TO BE ME! free to think…free to discover…free to learn…my education at International School changed everything in my life…momentous and I am so very grateful!” Loved reading your article and seeing all the photos. Thank you.

  9. Oyie Esguerra says:

    My mother wanted me to learn English. So in 1964, we went to the old Donada campus. It looked old and unkempt. We were redirected to the new Belair campus. I was so happy because the classrooms were airconditioned. So from 1st grade to 9th grade, I really felt that I received the best education ever. AS/IS prepared and molded me in the coming years here in Los Angeles, California. Thank very much Lou for an excellent and nostalgic article. Mabuhay!

  10. Ray Otstott says:

    Nice job, Lou! I’m so grateful you take the time and the energy to put together these wonderful memory pieces. Although I think I have a good memory, you still seem to find the bits that I managed to forget, and it’s so special to be reminded of those wonderful days of our youth in a very special place, the Philippines!

  11. This is the definitive AS story, in my opinion. Most of my family graduated from AS off of Makati Avenue, just down the street from the SYA Supermarket. My brothers Daniel, Paul and Leslie, plus elder sister Jocelyn, all finished at AS. Thanks for this excellent article: meticulously researched, uniquely photographed and flawlessly executed. You made this walk down memory lane such a pleasant and rewarding one, Lou! Morrie Kayanan AS ’69 Watch for my recently completed video, soon on You Tube, entitled “Dancing Down the Years” It is about 95 years of school dance parties, music, dances and fun we enjoyed at AS/IS. It was done to raise funds for Vicky Sycip Herrera’s Scholarship Foundation. Email me and I’ll send an advance DVD to you…

  12. kc says:

    great article mr. gopal. i never knew that about my law wonder there was always this eerie feeling in the first floors.. thank you and congrats on your website.

  13. lougopal says:

    Be careful, there are still ghosts of past teachers under those floor boards !

  14. Jeanne Jacob-Ashkenazi says:

    Fascinating! — a brilliant piece of history that has touched my life as well from 1964 – 1970! Thank you, Lou, for your painstaking research — the photos of the very early years are priceless.

  15. Patrick Deakin says:

    Lou (Tito Lou?) :-),

    Another great article! I absolutely love your site and am constantly amazed by the number and quality of the photographs and the wonderful articles! Thank you so much again for this! I went to AS when it was already International School (1975-83) and I knew nothing about its history before Bel-Air. Thank you for sharing!

  16. Whitegray Memories says:

    Also born and raised in Manila and having gone to school at another American founded institution at nearby Taft Ave. just a few years after American School transferred to Makati, I was often lost in thought as a kid wondering what it was like leaving the country of your youth and settling down oceans away. It never occurred to me that even former expat classmates of various nationalities whom we thought didn’t give a hoot about our country, even those who stayed for just a few years would now have the similar nostalgic urge to get back to their formative roots and reestablish old contacts in Manila the way we do. I feel so rejuvenated, it’s almost like bathing in the fountain of careless youth. We’re not getting any younger, but Lou’s Manila Nostalgia amazingly helps put the pieces back together where our memories would fail recounting such priceless details.

  17. Willy Palarca says:

    Lou, I take it that the Otto Scheerer in one of the pictures you featured is the same OS, one of the pioneer settlers of what would become Baguio City. He’s also featured in a photo (ca 1900) with members of the Worcester-Wright Commission “around the Baguio plateau in late July to early August 1900 [that] validated earlier recommendations made by the Spanish Benguet Commission It was the ideal site for a hill station and health resort” (“City of Pines: The Origins of Baguio as a Colonial Hill Station and Regional Capital” by Robert R. Reed with photographic research by Erlyn Ruth E. Alcantara. A-Seven Publishing, Baguio City, 1999. Originally published by the Regents of the University of California, 1975). Otto is shown with his son Adolfo. Otto, I believe, settled in Baguio in the mid-1890s; previous to that he was a resident of Manila.

  18. lougopal says:

    Yes you are correct.

  19. Terry Davis says:

    Wow, Lou–you’ve done it again. Your history of the American School is a wonderful gift. Thank you.

  20. Tomas says:

    Another great piece! Thank you for bring back the times when things were so much
    more slower, kindler and decent. Unlike today when life seems to be encapsulated in a few sentences and posted on Facebook for all to see!

    Thank you, Lou, and keep them coming.

    More power to you

    Tomas Clemente Mendoza

  21. Norman Michael says:

    Wow. What a great piece of history you’ve shared!
    I am a military brat. A member of the JUSMAG group AKA “The Sangley Gang” that were allowed to attend AS/IS beginning in 1971. I may hold the distinction of being the worst student to hold an AS/IS diploma. Prove me wrong, I dare you!
    I have many fond memories of my time there and of some very fine classmates in the Class of ’72.

  22. lougopal says:

    I’m a little confused. Back in the late 50s-early 60s, we had both Sangley navy kids and Jusmag kids going to the AS. Was it different in 1971 ?

  23. Norman Michael says:

    When we arrived in 1970 we were housed at Heroes Hill. We were bussed to Sangley Point. The school was a cluster of Quonset huts. I remember a debate about sending us to Faith Academy or AS. I was not aware of the arrangement you mention.
    Funny add on; i ditched school from Sangley with two female classmates and took the launch to Manila. We went to Seafront to hang out. My dad shows up for lunch and confronts me. As my two attractive friends approach he paused and said “Carry on son”!

  24. Dennis Savage '59 says:

    As usual, Lou, thanks for the memories. I actually made it into one of the pictures.
    Yay! I can’t imagine what might be next. Surprise us! I’m sure you will. Thanks again for all the work you put into these articles. Dennis Savage ’59

  25. Carmelo Mosqueda says:

    Great article Mr.Lou,its reminds me about my favorite movies of all time “Back To The Future Part 1” about Marthy Mc.Fly and the Hill Valley High School.

  26. Chip Eck says:

    I look forward to every one of you articles Lou and they all are great! I have to say that this one brought back so many memories of my time at both the Donada and Bel Air campuses! Such wonderful memories of the places and friends that I will never forget and am so thankful for them all!
    Thank you Lou for bringing out both smiles and tears with your writings!


  27. Bill Boni says:

    Lou — Great job done clearly done with love. I kept looking at the pics of Donada Street hoping to catch a glimpse of our house, 1739, which was directly across the street from Heilbronn Hall. No luck. You may recall that Kawayan class photos for the elementary school were shot downstairs in our house for a few years.

    Hope things are going well. Let me know if you’re ever in Boston. — Bill Boni

    The capture text above gave me pause, as it reverses my father’s last two initials. Little things.

  28. Richard Scheerer says:

    Nostalgia indeed about the school across the fence from our back yard. In your photo of my grandfather in the garden, the “pals” he is with are his sons Adolfo and Donato and his son-in-law Lorenzo Onrubia, taken in the early 1930’s.
    I think I sent you another photo years ago with a swamp in the foreground and the Scheerer compound houses in the background. It’s that swamp that became AS.
    Good job, as usual.

  29. Bill Boni says:

    Hi Lou. My brother Bob viewed this, and he sees himself and Fred Elizalde in the photo taken at the Rizal Memorial pool. The guy in the white Barong is Rene Amabuyok, our coach for many years. Bob and Fred went on to distinguished swimming careers at Yale and Harvard respectively. Amazing look back! Thanks as always for your great work.


    This is the first time reading your articles and I must say I am hooked! My father was in the Navy and we were based in Queen and lived on a military compound I only remember being known as JUSMAG. We were stationed there from 1964 – 1969. I attended the American School from kindergarten through grade 4. I have very fond memories of those years! Paper Drives, going into the school auditorium to watch the APOLLO lift off, even the “covered playground”! My family was “sponsored” by the Tom Garrett family whom we became great friends with while there and continued to stay in touch once we were back in the US. His wife Barbara and children Tommy, Susan, and Casey visited us often once they were stationed at Camp Lejune, NC. I VIVIDLY remember the house we lived in while there. We would step out our back door and to the left within a short walk was the theater and to the right was the swimming pool and recreation center! The lifeguard was “Francisco”. The ferry rides crossing the bay to Sangley were a favorite treat to go shopping with my mother! My parents, Oscar Claude Marshall (known as Marsh to many) and Grace Marshall were Cuba Scouts leaders. My closest friend was Sharon Bunker and my brother Michael age 7 through 11 was friends with her brothers Jimmy and Kenny. We even experienced Molitoff Cocktails being thrown threw the windows of our home on several occassions! Our live-opinion housekeepers, Lena and Lucy were amazing. So much that we made efforts, to no avail to have Lena return to Norfolk VA with us when we departed. We had a monkey which was given to us by a veterinarian who I believe was Dr. Joseph. We came home on the USA PRESIDENT WILSON ocean liner that was an amazing 18 day trip from the Philippines to Hawaii, then Guam, and then we docked in San Fransisco, CA IN 1969, and flew home to South Carolina. I still have the 4 Kamins from our school years.
    I am so very glad to have found your site as I have done quite a bit of reminiscing the past couple of hours! Thanks for sparking these wonderful memories!


    Excuse autocorrect ..Quiz on City…not QUEENS. OH, also remember MOUSE BUBBLEGUM! also Dr Telford and his many housecalls made in the middle of the night for earache etc.!

  32. lougopal says:

    I’m so very pleased you liked my articles, Terry. Thanks for writing !

  33. Marilyn Villapando says:

    Thank you, Lou, of sharing such a wonderful article. It brought me back to more peaceful, less troubling times.

  34. Kat Babiera says:

    Thank you, Lou, for sharing the article. I live in the neigborhood,and it feel great to know the story of the place. The story and the photos give me goosebumps.

  35. Robert Wee 56 says:

    Thanks for the very fine article!

  36. Bruce Chandler says:

    I think the person dancing with Bobbie Fales is possibly John Stuller.

  37. Bruce Chandler says:

    I think the person dancing with Bobbie Fales, is possibly John Stuller.

  38. Bob Greenwald says:

    Chip, Bob Greenwald here. I was a high school friend of yours. I returned to the states after 1964 school years. Kindly send me an email so we can catch up.

  39. Susan (Brown) Lucas says:

    I was in the 3rd grade at the American School in 1948 as a dependent . We lived on a U.S. Army base in a family housing area, and traveled by military bus into Manila each day for school. So glad to find some information on my early childhood memories.

  40. Gantner says:

    Hello Ray, It’s been many years since I left the P.I. in 1965 (I was 15) for Switzerland where I still live. How are your brothers Billy (we were good friends) and Mick. I hope you receive my mail and we can chat a bit. I remember so well your family….mother, father and even your driver Matt…..and Billy’s German shepard. Best regards. Charly Gantner

  41. Chaley Ayers says:

    My mother, Sibyl Ayers, died at 97.5 on Jan 20th, 2018.
    She taught second grade at the American School in 1948-49. She returned to the states pregnant with me. My father was a reporter for UPI.
    Thanks so much for this wonderful, informative article.
    We are taking her ashes back to all the places she loved. With this information we know where to go in Manila.

  42. lougopal says:

    I am sorry to hear of your mother passing. I’m sure she was a wonderful mother and teacher. Thank you for kind comment.

  43. Robert Clarkin says:

    Lou, Thanks Again. Found your website searching for Jai Alai, now hooked on your research. I joined the 8th grade the first day they opened after the war. They say the teen years are difficult; mine were fantastic because of the American School and my fellow classmates. Oh, the memories!

  44. Ah, Lou. There aren’t enough words. Thank you so much. When I arrived in Manila (December of 1950) I attended the Seafront AS campus. Donada was a nice change from the quonset huts! The Class of ’57 picture at Seafront brought so many good memories. Among those Thea Crovat, Johnny Baker and others! Seeing Charlie Vines, Dennis Savage and David Nigel in the Boy Scout picture was super! I’m so glad I’m a member of Manila Nostalgia! Big hugs!

  45. Debbie Sutcliffe says:

    It sounds like you were living on Hero’s Hill– the JUSMAG compound off of Delta Circle (which I understnad is gone). Franny was still the lifeguard in 1979-81 when I lived there!

  46. Dear Sir:

    thank you so much for all the information on the american school, I am living in taft avenue 1767 taft avenue, the former american school is now arellano law school.

    our compound maybe a part of the Dr. Scheerer compund, my mother were born in this compound 1934 my mother was born, our whole family were born here.

    Dr. Scheerer and I met last 2010 when they sold the property to a certain chinese businessman named Mr. Gerry Limpe

    most of the names written on the lot owner were all american like, CARMEN BROWN, PILAR KILKENNY, WILLIAM LUTZ, i think carmen brown and pilar kilkenny were sisters, pilar kilkenny’s daughter is aling chuchay acolacol married to Mr. Rudy Acolacol, an aviation specialist

  47. Rosal Bulaong says:

    Just had the chance to enjoy your blog and was so glad to see a picture of Mrs. Carolyn Butler in the ground breaking ceremony of ISM. She hired me as Reference Librarian being the Director of ISM Media Services in 1976. I stayed on till 1997… the name Lou Gopal intrigues me… did you have a son or grandson in school during those years?

  48. After graduating from high school in a rural province in the Philippines in 1968, I started my very first job at the American School in Bel-Air, Makati as an inter-office messenger. (I attended college at the night school in one of the colleges in Manila).
    I delivered the messages to the students. The parents will ring up the High school office with the message for their children. The high school office clerk will hand to me the notes, I would then go to the manual cards containing the student’s schedule to find out which classrooms they can be located at that particular time. I would go to the classroom and hand to the teacher or put the note under the door, someone will pick it up and hand to the student. That was the before the cellphones were invented. During that one year employment, I came to know almost all the students, especially the Senior ones, who were almost the same age as I am. I remember the surnames Raab, Reyes (lots of them), Mina, Boucher, Williams, etc. etc. The Superintendent at that time was Mr. Vincent T. Harmon, the high school principal Mr. Blaine and of course, who will ever forget Senorita Martinez. I have been looking online for a copy of 1969 Kawayan yearbook, but unfortunately, it is not published in the Internet unlike some other years. I will never forget that one year that I worked at the American School, renamed later as International School. I immigrated to Australia after college and after 20 years moved to Vancouver, BC Canada where we are living now. That is my Nostalgia with this high school and will remain in my memories forever.

  49. John Sommerrock says:

    Lou, today I visited the old American School which is now Arellano School of Law. The reason I visited it is because my great uncle is Joseph P Heilbronn, he was married to my mother’s mother , my grandmother, sister Charlotte Klopp. He started the Heilbronn Paper Company here in Manila. Donated the funds to make the addition, Heilbronn Hall.

  50. lougopal says:

    John, how wonderful of you to write. All of us at the American School owe your family a debt of thanks. Our experience at the American School was so wonderful. We have stayed in touch even after graduation and moving to all parts of the world. Thank you for letting me know of your connection to our alma mater.

  51. William Boni says:

    John and Lou — We used to live directly across the street (1739 Donada) from the A.S., and you could see Heilbronn Hall while looking over our cement wall with shards of glass embedded in it. I spent many happy years both studying and playing on those grounds and in the gym.

    In fact, elementary classes often had their Kawayan photos taken against the backdrop of brick on the ground level of our house! I was planning a trip back at some point early next year but Covid has put that on the shelf for the time being.

    Hope all is well. Mabuhay. — Bill Boni (the youngest of four brothers who went to the A.S. — the others were Ovid, David and Bob)

  52. John L Dudley says:

    Lou – Thank you for the history lesson! I am 10 years younger, only attended for 1 year what must have been the ‘new’ Bel Air school in ’68 – 69, after a brutal 7th grade at Ateneo de Manila (really tough after 3 years in North Carolina, USA public schools). We three kids were Navy brats, dad was assigned to JUSMAG unit in QC, we lived on Heroes Hill Housing Compound (not Heroes Hill Cemetery, which made for interesting talks with taxi dirvers…). Will always remember fondly those 2 wonderful years in such a friendly place!

  53. Bonnie Harken says:


    Thank you so much for this incredible history and collection of photos of the American School! They bring back lots of memories for me, but I’m especially knocked out that we may have been in first grade together.

    My mother passed away a couple of years ago and I’ve been slowly going through long-forgotten boxes from her garage when I stumbled across one of my older brother’s report cards from K through 3rd grade. Before now, I didn’t remember the name of the school or its address. But the minute I searched for them, your blog came up with its image of Hazel Goodier, who had signed his 1st grade report card. Then piecing together your information, I discovered we were in the first grade there together from 1952-53.

    My family lived in Manila from late 1949 to 1953 after being displaced from Peiping, China. During that time my two older brothers, William (Bill) and Robert (Bob) Harken, and I all attended the American School spaced two years apart. I remember my older brother attending classes in quonset huts, which must have been at the SeaFront Compound. Another strong memory is of my mother driving like crazy to pick us all up one morning while typhoon waters were rising in the streets. Luckily, we made it just before the gates were closing on the compound where we lived.

    Please let me know if you’re interested in scans of the report cards, which are miniature time capsules. There may be some photos too, which I’d be happy to send you when I dig them out.

    Thanks again for this wonderful history and for helping me reconnect these parts of my past!

    Bonnie Harken

  54. lougopal says:

    Wow, what a small world. Thanks very much for reaching out. I have such fond memories of my American School days. I found out later Mrs. Goodier was interned at Santo Tomas. I don’t remember her as being too happy maybe because I was such a devil. She wrote on my card that I talked too much. Little did we all know about things like being ADHD, which I’m sure I had. Anyway, I’d love to see your pics if you find them. Send them to my email. Thanks again.

  55. stephen d t lyon says:

    Was student 1952-1956 at Seafront and Taft Ave. Then Brent 1956-1957.
    Had Mrs Grant for 5th Grade.
    Remember John Gartland from Scouts. Niki Peripletchikov was a neighbor on Protacio St.
    Was known then as Steve Townsend.

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